In his March 29 letter to the CTViewpoints, Nicholas Malino gets it wrong. He rejects two arguments in favor Connecticut joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact that he hears most often. Unfortunately, he argues with faulty logic in one case and, more importantly, fails to address the best argument in favor of the NPV compact at all.
First, here’s a quick description of the compact. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among a group of states to award all their electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the winner in each individual state. The compact is a way to elect the winner of the national popular vote without having to amend the Constitution to abolish the electoral college. The electoral college would stay intact. Only the method for choosing how electors vote is changed.
Now, I agree with Malino’s sentiment that candidates campaign based on the rules at play at the time. His baseball analogy is a good one. There’s no reason to believe that Donald Trump wouldn’t have won the popular vote had his campaign needed to win it. And therein lies the best reason for Connecticut to join the compact. Because, then, presidential campaigns would have to campaign differently!
Currently, campaigns get to ignore the three quarters of voters nationwide who live in safe or “spectator” states. They are only concerned with winning votes in closely contested or “swing” states. Connecticut is not a swing state and, as such, we are ignored by presidential campaigns. Candidates do not have to take positions on issues that specifically benefit Connecticut voters. Swing states receive more federal dollars per capita than spectator states. By moving to a national popular vote, candidates would have to pander to us and earn our vote as much as in any other state in the country.
Malino argues that the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of allocating electoral college votes prevents large states from putting their oversized thumb on the scale to the detriment of small states like Connecticut. But, California’s 55 electoral votes are more than 20 percent of the 270 votes required to win a majority of the electoral college. And, it doesn’t matter whether you win California by 1 vote or 4.2 million. Either way, you’re more than 20 percent of the way to victory.
However, if you had to win the national popular vote, the only way Californians could put their thumb on the scale this much would be if every voter in the state voted for the same candidate. In the 2016 election California provided Clinton with 13 percent of her popular vote, but also provided Trump with 7 percent of his. With a national popular vote Republican candidates would be incentivized to narrow the gap in California, the same way that Democratic candidates would be incentivized to narrow the gap in Texas. Campaigns of both parties would need to campaign everywhere in the country including in Connecticut.
So, while I agree with Malino that Donald Trump’s election is not tainted by a popular vote loss, I disagree strongly about the benefits of joining NPV compact. Joining the compact would solve the biggest problem that currently exists in our electoral system, i.e. that only votes in swing states matter. It would be beneficial to Connecticut voters and the three quarters of voters across the country who live in spectator states. Connecticut should join the compact.
Paul Honig lives in Harwinton.